One of the most widely used strategies among bodybuilders for decades is carb cycing. When I first began competing in 1996 this was the very strategy I used for contest preparation. It was also the strategy that many of the competitors were using, and still use till this very day.
In fact, fast forward 21 years later, and I still utilize this very strategy for weight loss & maintanance. As much as Iʻve written about the low carb diet, and intermittent fasting for weight loss acceleration, it would not be complete if I did not include something about carb cycling.
I believe carb cycling is critical, especially if you are following a regular weight training routine, and even more important if you are hitting the weights hard, and with high intensity.
So what exactly is carb cycling? Well, thatʻs a pretty simple question, with a pretty simple answer. It essentially involves cycling the amount of carbs (cabohydtrates) you consume over a period of time. This typically involves days of low carb consuption followed by a day or 2 of high carb consuption.
In the 90ʻs and early 2000ʻs, when preparaing for a competition Iʻd typically follow a protocol that would look something like this.
Day 1 – Low Carbs
Day 2 – Low Carbs
Day 3 – Low Carbs
Day 4 – High Carbs
Then repeat the cycle all over again.
As Iʻd get closer to showtime, Iʻd sometimes extend the low carb days to 4 or 5 days, followed by a day or two of carb loading. Keep in mind that in preparation for a contest, the carb days did not consist of Pizza, burgers, and fries, or other types of prcessed carbohydrates. However, the carb days consisted of typicallly the same protein Iʻd consume on the low carb days, such as chicken, turkey, beef, or fish. However, Iʻd replace the low glycemic vegetbles Iʻd consume on the low carb days with more starchy comlex carbs, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, or poi on the high carb days. If you’ve never heard of poi it’s a low glycemic complex carbohydrate, similar to a yam or sweet potato, and a Native Hawaiian staple.
Fast forward to the current day, and my more commonly used approach when I’m not in contest preparation mode will typically look something like this.
Sunday – Low Carbs
Monday – Low Carbs
Tuesday – Low Carbs
Wednesday – Low Carbs
Thursday – Low Carbs
Friday – High Carbs
Saturday – High Carbs
Since I am not preparing to get on stage in my underwear, the high carb days in this regimen will typically consist of some complex/refined carbs, such as pizza or burgers, etc. However, the strategy is the same. Deplete the body of it’s glycogen (sugar) storage throughout the week, then load it back up on the weekend.
This is not just my current carb cycle, but one I’ve used for years during the off-season to reduce & maintain body fat levels.
If you’ve never tried this carb cycling approach it may be worth giving it a shot. Besides helping your muscles to fill out after being depleted throughout the low carb days, it also allows for a little flexibility to enojoy some of the foods you wouldn’t typically eat on a true low carb day.